Indian Trails Middle School Teacher of the Year: Laura Shanley
Shanley knows the middle school years are often the toughest for students. 'I want to make sure that they know that there's somebody there that supports them even when life seems crazy,' she wrote.
| 6:00 a.m. December 30, 2022
Palm Coast Observer
Indian Trails Middle School art teacher and Teacher of the Year Laura Shanley always says that she doesn't teach art; she teaches kids.
"As you enter her room you are immediately immersed in engaging, personal and student artifacts from years worth of activities."
— RYAN ANDREWS, principal, Indian Trails Middle School
"I teach them how to feel better about themselves. To understand that everybody is not good at everything, but if you want something and you're willing to work hard, you can achieve it," she wrote in her Teacher of the Year application.
Shanley had had trouble with reading and spelling as a child.
"Standing up trying to read in front of the class made me sweat and shake," she wrote. "... Others around me did not understand. My parents didn't understand. I didn't understand."
After high school, she worked as a waitress for 13 years, sometimes working two jobs as she put her husband through law school. He insisted that she go to college. She laughed at the idea. But she went, and did well. And in a college psychology class, she read about dyslexia.
"It was like reading my story," she wrote. "I found a way to study and I learned what worked for me."
She graduated with a fine arts degree and an education minor.
"I loved art and felt like it was the only thing that got me through high school and life," she wrote. "I was determined to find those students who felt like me growing up and make sure they knew that there were more than one way to be smart."
Mikala Hansen, one of Shanley's former students and now a 9th grader at Matanzas High School, wrote in a letter of support for Shaley's Teacher of the Year application that Shanley was always there for her students.
"If a student came into her class crying or upset, she would always take time aside to make sure they were really OK," Hansen wrote. "In drawing, she always went in depth with the tutorials to ensure the students would not be stuck or confused."
Since Shanley began teaching in 1997, she's worked mostly in middle schools.
"That's the perfect place for me," she wrote. "It's one of the hardest times students will ever have, and I want to make sure that they know that there's somebody there that supports them even when life seems crazy or when they don't always make the perfect decision."
She's taught at Indian Trails since 2008.
"She is a collaborator, mentor and a creative and passionate educator of children whose vision for education extends beyond the classroom."
— TERESA SMITH, history teacher, Indian Trails Middle School
Her classroom is covered floor to ceiling with paintings, drawings, sculptures and crafts from former students, Indian Trails Principal Ryan Andrews wrote in a letter of recommendation for Shanley's Teacher of the Year application.
"Ms. Shanley makes art come to life in her classroom and inspires so many students and families with her creativity," Andrews wrote. "As you enter her room you are immediately immersed in engaging, personal and student artifacts from years worth of activities."
The artwork, he wrote, shows a legacy of the lives Shanley has impacted.
She's also quick to volunteer for community activities, Andrews wrote, and created a monthly “Family Art Night" at the school, teaching guests a new skill and giving kids and their families an opportunity to bond over art.
Shanley's after school ITMS Art Club creates scenery for dances and plays, wrote Indian Trails civics and history teacher Teresa Smith, and Shanley has helped Smith integrate art into her U.S. history classes.
"Laura has assisted me in bringing art into my classes by suggesting activities that allow students to analyze and understand paintings that reflect key events in history and American culture, such as Salvador Dali’s 'The Discovery of America,' Emmanuel Leutz’s 'Washington Crossing the Delaware' and Howard Chandler 'Christy’s Signing of the Constitution,'" Smith wrote. "... She is a collaborator, mentor and a creative and passionate educator of children whose vision for education extends beyond the classroom."